What do medical students learn about general practice in their undergraduate education?

Kelby Smith-Han, C Jaye, Ruth Fitzgerald, Sarah Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research looking at the general practice workforce shortage has been predominantly from a quantitative perspective. The present research examined medical students’ views about general practice using a qualitative approach. Medical students in their second year and final year of study (trainee interns, or “TIs”) at the University of Otago, New Zealand were interviewed. Second year students described general practice as concerned with non-challenging minor problems and characterised by relationships with individuals and communities and that general practice lifestyle was one of structured hours and an easier workload. Further impressions were that general practice has a low status within the medical hierarchy, is considered an easy default option and is not considered to be a specialty. TIs offered perceptions based on experiences working directly with general practitioners (GPs). TIs illustrated the challenges of being a GP and the variable conditions seen by working in different types of practices. TIs also viewed general practice as having a low medical status and being a default vocation if a student lacked the motivation or ability to specialise. They also did not regard general practice as a specialty. However, TIs offered contradictory perspectives on general practice. Their educational and clinical experiences of general practice as skilled, challenging and exciting (particularly in rural areas) challenged perceptions of general practice as an easy field of medicine but did not outweigh them. [Author abstract, ed]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-90
Number of pages13
JournalFocus on Health Professional Education: a Multi-Disciplinary Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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